As soon as we begin to consider what lies at the heart of the Bible's chronology, we find it is the subject of Redemption. And whenever 'chronology' is divorced from Redemption and the great purposes of God, and made a matter of interest and intellectual curiosity, it loses its value for the spiritual life. But, conversely, it is true to say that without being in possession of the real time-programme of God's works, it is never possible for us to see Redemption clearly in His light, for it is positively related to time in the Bible; a fact few have recognised.
In exactly the same way as the bones - when they are in joint - are necessary to keep the flesh of the body in its perfect form and stature, so, obviously, is a true chronology a necessity to history. Once history is deprived of its true timing, it is often liable to be dismissed as fable, and we know this is how the world, the religious world not excepted, has treated much of sacred history, especially in Genesis. Also, when it comes to understanding the Bible's prophecies, what are these, if not history written beforehand? If the knowledge of time is necessary to perceive the true outline of history, then it is just as necessary for the understanding of prophecy.
We all, however, can appreciate the need for God to keep the true timing of His purposes secret until the moment of their fulfilment, or even to hide it until the events have passed into history, and we can look back upon them, and glorify God for the perfection of His working.
If we are then to begin to understand time in the Bible, we must study Leviticus chapter 25, where the Mind of our Creator-God is unfolded on this infinitely important subject. And the very first question we must ask is: Why it was so important for Israel to count time accurately and, not only to observe each sabbath day, but also to keep each seventh year as 'a sabbath of rest unto the land? And why also, when this whole system of things has apparently passed away, should it be so important for the present-day, Spirit-filled, members of the Church of God to know anything about such matters? Are these things really so vital that they should occupy our time and attention in a day of desperate world crisis like the present?
Those who have given any credence to what we have already written will have some idea at least of the reason, but it may be wise to answer the above questions with the actual words of Barnabas, who was the Spirit-filled companion of the Apostle Paul, and who is first mentioned in Acts 4: 36. (The Epistle of Barnabas lays a greater claim to canonical authority than most other writings in the Apochryphal New Testament and we quote it now to show what was current teaching in Apostolic times.) He writes in chapter 13 of his Epistle:
'Sanctify the sabbath of the Lord with pure hands, and with a clean heart ... even in the beginning of the Creation He makes mention of the sabbath. And God made in six days the works of His hands; and He finished them on the seventh day, and He rested the seventh day, and sanctified it.
'Consider, my children, what that signifies; He finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this; that in six thousand years the Lord God will bring all things to an end.
'For with Him one day is a thousand years; as Himself testifieth, saying, Behold, this day shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, shall all things be accomplished.
'And what is it that He saith, and He rested the seventh day; He meaneth this; that when His Son shall come, and abolish the season of the Wicked One, and judge the ungodly ... then shall He gloriously rest in that seventh day.'
This is an amazing statement for Apostolic times, when 4,000 years had only just reached their close! Could the great secret really have been disclosed then - that the end of 6,000 years was to bring in the Millenial Kingdom of Christ - God's sabbath 'thousand years' that John later refers to no less than six times in Revelation ch.20? Well, we can only see how forcibly the Holy Ghost affirms in 2 Peter 3: 8, that we should 'not be ignorant of this one thing' - that is, 'that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day' - whatever else we may be willing to be ignorant of! (See Chart 4).
What a powerful commentary on June 12th 1933, when the whole world, and the whole Church, were together ignorant of the fact that six days of 1,000 solar years had come to completion, and that 'the day of the Lord' (as far as the solar measurement was concerned) had indeed come 'as a thief in the night', exactly as both Peter (2 Peter 3: 10) and Paul (1 Thessalonians 5: 2 & 3) had warned would be the case!
Leviticus 25 begins with instruction concerning the 'seventh year' or the 'sabbath of rest' for the land. God evidently wanted Israel to be on the watch for the end of the six thousand years, and so made them keep 'sabbath' days and years continuously throughout their generations. But after this the chapter goes on to unfold a further seven-fold measurement: 'Thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years' (verse 8). (See Chart 5).
We have had to focus attention upon the seven-fold principle of Divine measurement in order to learn just how God regards 'the fiftieth year' and what its place is in the scheme of time.
First of all, we have to answer the question, why does God have everything to do with time measured in sevens We see 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months, 7 years, and then 7 times 7 years, 70 times 7 years - obviously, there is a reason for such a design. Well, as we have seen, it was accepted in Apostolic times that 7,000 years was the limit with God, and that after this great week of time there would be 'a new heaven and a new earth', where the sun and moon would no more be needed, as the last two chapters of the Bible so clearly show. Peter, in his second Epistle (chapter 3:10) actually describes what the astronomers call a 'Nova', which is the sudden flaring up of a bright star (such as our sun); which is undoubtedly the means by which our present earth will be brought to an end.
We have gone into all this because 'the eighth day', or all that follows the 7,000 years, is what we call 'eternity to come', as distinct from eternity that is past. It is not measured by 'time', it is everlasting, and we certainly cannot measure 'everlasting life'! 'Eight' is the number related to 'resurrection' in the Bible, and, as already mentioned, there are eight resurrections recorded in Scripture.
At the end of 'the day of the Lord' - the seventh thousand solar years which the Bible's chronology shows the world has already entered - we read in 1 Corinthians 15: 26, 'the last enemy' shall 'be destroyed,' that is 'death.' So seven is the number related to time and death, and eight to resurrection and eternal life.
Now the year of Jubilee is 'the fiftieth year' (see Chart 5) just as the Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day. As it follows 7 times 7 years, the Jubilee is an eighth year and it has this most remarkable feature in the Chronology of Redemption, as we will call the Jubilee Chronology - it cannot be measured as forming an addition to time. We see from Leviticus chapter 25 that this 'fiftieth year' starts in the seventh month of the forty-ninth year of the cycle, and runs its course as 'a full year' (verse 30), thus ending in the seventh month of the first year of the succeeding 49. The result is that while man measures only 49 years, God looks upon each cycle as containing a '50th year' which only He reckons.
From the foregoing we can see that each 490 years we have outlined in earlier pages, from the birth of Abram onwards, was to God 500 years, so that the four such divisions of Israel's history to the Death and Resurrection of Christ were reckoned by God as 2,000 years or forty Jubilee years.
Without stopping now to go into the wonderful astronomical and calendar design of the Jubilee cycle, we must continue our search and discover how God has concealed the first great era of 2,000 years or forty Jubilee years in the Bible's chronology, from Adam to Abram.
It is, indeed, a sobering thought that God has managed to hide the true
course of time in His Word by so simple a method as to use two differing
chronologies which, unless they were discerned and separated from each other,
rendered it totally impossible to compute time accurately and measure the true
age of our race from that far-off beginning in Genesis 1.